The Times West Virginian

Opinion

January 11, 2013

Transportation Enhancement Grant Program boosts county

Marion County and its residents were big winners when the 2012 West Virginia Transportation Enhancement Grant Program recipients were announced earlier this week.

This year, a total of $7,036,864 went toward 36 projects in West Virginia. Of that amount, $562,000 — 8 percent of the entire amount granted to cities and counties across the state — went to four key projects in Marion County.

This program, which is under the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration, awards federal aid every year to communities in the state through the Safe Accountable Flexible Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users. The grants are designated to support projects involving nontraditional transportation.

By “nontraditional” transportation, these funds go to support pedestrian-friendly efforts, like rail trails, bicycle paths, sidewalks and access to those infrastructure improvements for those with disabilities.

The Marion County Parks and Recreation Commission, working through the Marion County Commission, received $280,000 through a Transportation Enhancement Grant for the development of the rail trail from Barrackville to Mannington.

The trail will eventually run from Barrackville to Dents Run. The $280,000 will go toward the first phase of develop­ment, which is the section from Farmington to Mannington that will hook up to Mannington’s existing Joel McCann Memorial Trail. The goal is for the project to begin in 2014.

Several years ago, the City of Mannington developed its small section of the trail — the 2 1/2-mile Joel McCann Memorial Trail, named after the late Mannington fire chief. Mannington Main Street wrote a Transportation Enhancement Grant proposal in collaboration with the city and received $110,000 in 2006 for this project.

The trailhead in Mannington is constantly being updated, and now it will actually be used since the trail will eventually connect to Barrackville.

The City of Pleasant Valley also got $112,000 in Transportation Enhancement Grant funding this week for its ongoing sidewalk project. The new grant will extend the sidewalks in Kingmont, which will allow residents to walk to the post office or their place of employment.

Also funded for an ongoing sidewalk project was the Town of White Hall, which was awarded $90,000 for its sidewalk project. The first phase, funded previously, should start this spring and will go from Richard Bailey and Rick Bailey’s State Farm Insurance offices to Mike’s Electric, on U.S. 250 going toward Grafton. The second phase will continue the sidewalk to the White Hall convenience store in Mountain Gate Park, and the whole project comes in around the town hall.

The Town of Farmington received $80,000 to keep up its pedestrian access efforts and will assist with the replacement of the sidewalks and steps and include sidewalk cutouts for handicap accessibility.

Attempts such as these fine examples to increase the ability to walk and exercise within a community not only improves traffic patterns, the health of residents and decreases our overall carbon footprint, but greatly increases the safety of pedestrians.

Access for those in wheelchairs and those who use walkers and canes to sidewalks is not only important in icy conditions of winter, but all year long. Also, the highly traveled routes in Pleasant Valley and White Hall are not safe for walkers. Having sidewalks within these communities allows for safe foot travel to a store or the local post office or town hall instead of having to jump in a car and drive there.

These four communities and commissions, as well as the other 32 statewide projects, should be applauded for improving the quality of life for their residents through key rail trail, sidewalk and access projects. We look forward to the continuation of many of these deserving projects in the coming months and years.

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